Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Marcus Reno, the Branded Coward of the Little Bighorn

George Armstrong Custer was no military novice in 1876 when he rode out to subdue the Sioux. Custer graduated from West Point in 1861, and distinguished himself in the American Civil War as a brave cavalry officer, being promoted to the rank of brevet brigadier general in 1863 and brevet major general in 1865. Custer’s adherents made much of the fact that he was a “boy general”, but such honors were fairly common during the Civil War. In fact two of Custer’s subordinate officers in the 1876 campaign, Major Marcus Reno and Captain Frederick Benteen had been given similar honors during the Civil War. Reno was made a brevet brigadier general in 1865 and, by the end of the war, Benteen had been recommended to receive the rank of brevet brigadier general.   Unlike many other brave soldiers, however, Custer had a knack for publicity. He frequently invited correspondents from leading newspapers to accompany his campaigns, and their reporting significantly enhanced his visibility and reputation.

On June 25, 1876 Custer ordered Major Reno, with three companies, to attack the Indian village along the Little Bighorn River from the south, while Custer with five companies intended to cross the river farther north and come into the village from the opposite side.  Historian Nathaniel Philbrick writes in The Last Stand, “For many of the soldiers in Reno’s battalion, this was their first time in combat.  Their horsemanship skills were rudimentary at best.  They were fine sitting on a walking horse or even trotting horse, but galloping among 130 mounted troopers over uneven, deceptive ground was a new experience.”  He continues, “No U.S. cavalry officer before or since had what Reno now faced: the chance to see if a mounted battalion could push the collective psyche of a thousand tepee village past the breaking point and transform this giant seething organism of men, women, children, horses, and dogs into a stampeding mob.  The question was who….wanted to be the guinea pig in this particular experiment.”  Apparently not Marcus Reno or his men. 

Reno began a charge on the southern end of the village as ordered.  The Indians did not flee as expected, but began pouring out of the village toward Reno like angry bees.  Reno halted, had his men dismount and formed a skirmish line.  As pressure from the hostiles mounted, Reno withdrew to a second defensive position in the timber near the river.  Sioux and Cheyenne warriors began to flank Reno’s position and he beat a hasty retreat, or as he reported it “a charge to the rear”.  The disorderly retreat/rout resulted in many casualties, but Reno established a defensive position atop the bluffs overlooking the river and made a successful stand against the attacking Indians. 

Custer partisans blamed Reno for Custer’s death and denounced him as a coward and a drunkard.  Responding to persistent charges of cowardice and drunkenness at the Little Bighorn, Reno demanded and was granted a court of inquiry. The court convened in Chicago on January 13, 1879, and called as witnesses most of the surviving officers who had been in the fight. After 26 days of testimony, Judge Advocate General W. M. Dunn concluded, “I concur with the court in its exoneration of Major Reno from the charges of cowardice which have been brought against him.” He added, “The suspicion or accusation that Gen. Custer owed his death and the destruction of his command to the failure of Major Reno, through incompetencey or cowardice, to go to his relief, is considered as set to rest….”  The findings of the court of inquiry did little to stop Custer partisans from hounding Reno. 

After years of being branded a coward, Marcus Reno became morose and descended into alcoholism.  In 1880 Reno faced charges of drunkenly attacking a junior officer with a pool cue, of being a “peeping Tom” and of being drunk while on duty at Fort Meade in Dakota Territory. Reno was found guilty and dishonorably discharged from the service, for “conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline.” Reno tried vigorously for the rest of his life to clear his name, but failed. Marcus Reno died of throat cancer on March 30, 1889, and was buried in an unmarked grave in Washington, D.C. 

In 1967, at the request of Charles Reno, the Major's great-nephew, a U.S. military review board reopened Reno's 1880 court martial. It reversed the decision, ruling Reno's dismissal from the service improper and awarded him an Honorable Discharge.

Marcus A. Reno was reburied, with full military honors, at the Custer National Cemetery on the Little Bighorn Battlefield, on September 9, 1967.  Reno was reburied with all of the honors due a brigadier general, including an eleven gun salute, a guard of honor, taps, and a black riderless horse bearing the Seventh Cavalry emblem.  There was also a parade in Hardin, Montana, with two bands and a drum and bugle corps in the dress of the uniformed cavalry.  The governor of Montana attended the ceremony as did chiefs of the Crow, Cheyenne and Arakira Indian nations.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

The Bandit Queen of Arizona

Pearl Hart was born Pearl Taylor in the Canadian village of Lindsay, Ontario. Her parents were both rich and religious, providing their daughter with a good upbringing, which served her well until she made a disastrous marriage at the age of 16 to an abusive drunkard.  This marriage had its turbulent ups and downs for years, but in 1893 Pearl Hart found herself in Phoenix, Arizona without a husband.

Pearl Hart knocked around Arizona, acquiring a taste for cigars, whiskey, and morphine.  In 1898, Hart turned up in Mammoth, Arizona where she worked as a cook while also operating a tent brothel near the local mine.  All was going well until the mine closed.

At this point, Hart threw in with one Joe Boot.  The pair worked a small mining claim Boot had staked, but found no gold.  The pair decided to rob a stagecoach that traveled near the Superstition Mountains between Globe and Florence, Arizona.

One of the last stagecoach routes still operating in the territory, the run had not been robbed in years and thus the coach did not have a shotgun guard. The robbery occurred on May 30, 1899, at a watering point near Cane Springs Canyon, about 30 miles southeast of Globe.  Hart had cut her hair short and dressed in men's clothing. The pair stopped the coach and while Boot menacingly brandished a Colt .45, Hart took $431.20 (equivalent to about $13,000 today) from the surprised victims.

The pair was bold but not bright, being caught sound asleep in camp six days later by a sheriff’s posse.

The novelty of a female stagecoach robber created a sensation.  Hart and Boot came to trial in October 1899. During the trial Hart touched the hearts of the jurors by claiming she needed the money to help her sick mother.  The jury found her not guilty. Immediately following the acquittal, Pearl Hart was rearrested on the charge of tampering with U.S. mail. Boot received a sentence of thirty years and Hart a sentence of five years for their misdeeds.

Both Hart and Boot were sent to Yuma Territorial Prison. Joe Boot became a prison trusty, driving supply wagons outside the walls. One day Boot and the wagon did not return.  Boot had completed less than two years of his sentence.  Pearl Hart used her position as the only female at an all-male prison to her advantage, playing admiring guards and prison trusties off of each other in an effort to improve her situation.  In December 1902, after serving three years of her sentence, Hart was pardoned by the Territorial Governor of Arizona.

After leaving prison, Pearl Hart worked, under an alias, as part of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.

Pearl Hart is acknowledged as the only known female stagecoach robber in Arizona’s history earning her the nickname of the “Bandit Queen.”

Legends of the Superstition Mountains

Custer’s Last Stand: Portraits in Time

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Where is the Holy Grail?

The search for the Holy Grail is indeed a mystery for some Spanish Catholics since they claim that it was never lost.

 According to the Spanish tradition, St. Peter took the Cup of the Last Supper from Jerusalem and sent it to Rome. In Rome this became the Chalice of the Popes, from the time of St. Peter to the time of Pope Sixtus II.  In the year 258, during the Pontificate of Pope Sixtus II, the Roman emperor Valerianus signed an edict appropriating the possessions of all Christians. Sixtus II gave the papal treasures, including the Cup, to his Spanish deacon, later known as St. Lawrence.   Before St. Lawrence was killed, he gave the Cup to a Spanish soldier who transferred it to Huesca (Spain).

 In 553, Vicentius, bishop of Huesca, placed the Holy Chalice at the new church in this town, where it remained for 158 years. In 711, Muslims invaded Spain.  For the next seven hundred plus years the Cup went from one hiding place to another until in 1424, Alfonso V , King of Valencia, Aragon, Majorca, Naples and Sicily, brought the Holy Grail, now known as the Santo Caliz,  to the Royal Palace of Valencia.  In 1437, Alfonso's brother, Don Juan, King of Navarre placed the Grail in the Cathedral of Valencia, where it resides today.

 The Cup has only been taken from the Cathedral twice: during the War of Independence against Napoleon (1809-1813) it was moved to Alicante, Ibiza and Palma of Majorca; and during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) it was hidden at private homes in Carlet and Valencia.

 In 1982, His Holiness Pope John Paul II came to Valencia, where he celebrated Mass with the Santo Caliz.  After an interruption of one thousand seven hundred and twenty four years, a Pope was able to celebrate the Mass with the Holy Grail.

                 Legends of the Superstition Mountains

                      Paititi (The Treasure of the Lost City )


Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878: A Case Study

                                                        Yellow Fever Hospital

The worst outbreak of Yellow Fever in American history hit the Mississippi River Valley in 1878.  The region recorded 120,000 cases and some 20,000 deaths.  Here is how it looked to the people on the ground:

In August 1878, news reached Holly Springs, Mississippi that the neighboring town of Grenada was in the grip of the yellow fever epidemic that was sweeping the South.  The fever had stricken some one hundred and thirty one Southern towns that summer. 

Yellow fever is an acute infectious disease of tropical and sub-tropical regions, which is capable of invading the temperate zones as devastating epidemics during warm seasons.  A typical attack of yellow fever has a sudden onset with headache, backache, fever prostration and congestion of the face during the first few days.  Later there may be vomiting of black blood, bleeding gums, kidney disease and jaundice.  Mortality varies greatly, sometimes running to over fifty percent.
Yellow fever is transmitted by the bite of certain types of mosquitos, a fact unknown in 1878.  Ignorance bred fear, and those who could fled any district touched by the fever. 

On August 7, the mayor and council of Holly Springs set up a Board of Health which advised, that to protect the town, a rigid quarantine should be imposed.  The mayor and council rejected the resolution on the grounds that it would be cruel to turn away refugees fleeing from the disease.

Men, women and children, from Grenada began arriving in Holly Springs on August 17.  A Mr. Downs became ill on the day of his arrival.  As illness overtook one after another of the refugees, fear spread through the town.  In the early hours of Sunday, August 25, Mr. Downs died.  Hoping to keep Downs’ death a secret from the public, his body was removed through a back window and buried in the darkness. 

More and more of the refugees began to die, and cases of “bilious fever” developed among local citizens.  The diagnosis changed as the number of cases grew.  On September 4, yellow fever was declared “epidemic” in Holly Springs.  Streets to the train depot were jammed with townspeople trying to refugee north.  Colonel H.W. Walters took charge of relief measures.  

By September 6, Father Anacietus Oberti and twelve nuns from Bethlehem Academy had set up a makeshift hospital. There was little, in fact, that could be done to treat the yellow fever other than to provide quiet surroundings, water, and to withhold food during the height of the disease.  Six of the nuns quickly became ill and died, as did Father Oberti.  Doctors, nurses and other volunteers from New Orleans arrived in response to an appeal for help, but the death list continued to mount.

The yellow fever spread across the entire town and to nearby farms.  W. J. L. Holland, who became Chairman of the Relief Committee after Colonel Walters died from the fever,  wired the press, “The situation is worse.  It looks like every man must go down.  Only ten out of the first hundred cases live.  Two days ago, thirty news cases and ten deaths; yesterday, twenty three new cases and eleven deaths.  After having recruited five times, the Relief Committee yesterday numbered one.  Five hundred persons now lie stricken.  We pray for friends and frost.  We have a safe full of keys and valuables belonging to families that have all been swept away.”

On October 19, 1878, Mr. Holland issued the following message to the press, “Today there have been six new cases and one death.  Your correspondent happens to be one of the new cases, after having struggled with ‘Yellow Jack’ from the beginning of the epidemic, he desires, through you, in the name of this people, to express their lasting gratitude to our friends in every part of the Union who have generously contributed to us in so many ways.”

October 25, 1878.  Funeral notice: “W. J. L. Holland, late Chairman of the Relief Committee, departed this life at 2:30 A.M. aged thirty six.

November 1, 1878: “Four new cases, no deaths.  Heavy frost last night and business houses open.”

Out of a population of 3,500, some fourteen hundred citizens of Holly Springs were stricken with the fever.  Of these, three hundred and four died.

An effective vaccine for Yellow Fever was not developed for another sixty years.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Northern Virginia’s "George Washington Air Junction"


     Under the heading, “What might have been”, it should be noted that one bold entrepreneur once had the dream of bringing the largest airport in the world to Northern Virginia.  In the late 1920s, Henry Woodhouse purchased 1,500 acres in Fairfax County’s Hybla Valley, with the dream of converting the existing dairy farms into the "George Washington Air Junction".  Woodhouse was convinced that Zeppelins were the future of aviation, and conceived of gigantic runways and mooring fields to accommodate trans-Atlantic Zeppelin flights.  An article in the March 3, 1938 issue of the Herald Times proclaimed, Hybla Valley, flat as a table and 3,800 acres in extent, lies 3 miles south of Alexandria, flanked by U.S. Highway #1.  On it could be located the largest runways in the world, and it could be converted into the largest airport in the world.”  Nothing came of the plan, and not a single aircraft ever operated from the site.  Woodhouse succumbed to his creditors, and the land was eventually purchased by the government in 1941 for use by the military.  In 1975 the land was sold to Fairfax County for $1 to be used "exclusively for public park or public recreation purposes in perpetuity”.  The land is now known as Huntley Meadows Park.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Arlington House and Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington House

     George Washington Parke Custis, aged three, inherited eleven hundred acres of land overlooking the Potomac River, when his father, the stepson of General George Washington, died in 1781.  Young “Wash” and his sister “Nelly” were raised at Mount Vernon by George and Martha Washington.  Upon reaching legal age in 1802, the young man began building a lavish house on a high hill overlooking the Potomac which was to be not only his house but a living memorial to George Washington (who died in 1799).  Originally the name “Mount Washington” was considered for the house, but in the end it was named after the Custis family estate in the Virginia tidewater area and became known as “Arlington House”.  The house took sixteen years to complete.

    Custis married and had one daughter, Mary.  Mary Custis, one of wealthiest heiresses in Virginia, fell in love with a penniless soldier, Robert E. Lee.  Although Lee came from a prominent family, at the time of his birth there was no family fortune left.  Lee had only his army pay and his person to offer a bride.  One afternoon, while taking a break from reading aloud from a novel by Sir Walter Scott, Lee proposed to Mary.  Mary’s father reluctantly agreed to the marriage.

     In 1857 Custis died.  His will allowed Mary to live in and control Arlington House for the duration of her life, at which point the house would pass to her eldest son, George Washington Custis Lee.  Mary and Robert E. Lee lived in Arlington House until 1861 when Virginia seceded from the Union and Lee went south to join the Confederate army.

     Union troops moved into Virginia in May, 1861, immediately taking up positions around Arlington House.  Two forts were built on the estate including Fort Whipple (now Fort Myer) and Fort McPherson.  The property was confiscated by the federal government when property taxes were not paid in person by Mrs. Lee. The property was offered for public sale Jan. 11, 1864, and was purchased by a tax commissioner for "government use, for war, military, charitable and educational purposes." More than 1,100 freed slaves were given land around the house, where they farmed and lived during and after the Civil War.

     At this point Brigadier General Montgomery C. Meigs, commander of the garrison at Arlington House (and Quartermaster General of the Union Army) enters the picture.  Meigs and Lee had served together many years earlier as military engineers on the Mississippi River.  Lee was a 1st Lieutenant and Meigs his subordinate, a 2nd Lieutenant.  Did Meigs bear Lee a personal grudge?  Some historians think so, or perhaps he was just embittered by the war itself, or by Lee’s defection from the Union army.  In any event, tasked with finding additional burial grounds for battle casualties, on June 15, 1864, Meigs wrote to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton that “the grounds about the mansion are admirably suited to such a use.” Meigs himself reported his “grim satisfaction” of ordering twenty six Union dead to be buried near Mrs. Lee’s rose garden in June, 1864.  Meigs had graves dug right up to the entrance to the house.  The entire Rose Garden was dug up and the remains of some 1800 soldiers recovered from the Manassas Battlefields buried there in a huge burial vault.  Such an unusual positioning of graves was malicious.  Meigs intention appeared to be to prevent the Lee family from ever again inhabiting the house.  By the time the Civil War ended, more than 16,000 Union soldiers were buried on the grounds of the estate.  Ironically, Meig’s own son, John,  was killed in October 1864 and sent to Arlington Cemetery for burial.  

                                                 The Grave of John Meigs        

     Neither Robert E. Lee nor his wife ever set foot in Arlington House again. General Lee died in 1870.  Mary Custis Lee visited the grounds shortly before her death in 1873, but was overcome by emotion and unable to go inside the house.  After the death of his parents, George Washington Custis Lee claimed that the house and land had been illegally confiscated and that, according to his grandfather's will, he was the legal owner. In December 1882, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, returned the property to George Washington Custis Lee, stating that it had been confiscated without due process.

Would the dead have to be transferred to a new site?  General Lee's son diffused the crisis by selling the house and land to the government for its’ fair market value.

Arizona’s Superstition Mountains are mysterious, forbidding, and dangerous.  The Superstitions are said to have claimed over five hundred lives.  What were these people looking for?  Is it possible that these mountains hide a vast treasure?  Is it possible that UFOs land here?  Is it possible that in these mountains there is a door leading to the great underground city of the Lizard Men?  Join us as we recount a fictional story of the Superstitions and then look at the real history of the legends that haunt these mountains in our new book:  Gold, Murder and Monsters in the Superstition Mountains.

Friday, April 03, 2020

War Comes to Manassas Virginia (1861)

The Grave of Judith Henry

     On July 21, 1861 the eighty four year old, invalid Judith Henry lay in her bed, as the battle began around Pittsylvania, her childhood home.  Shells from Union artillery began to fall around the widow’s house, “Spring Hill”.  Mrs. Henry’s two sons, shocked to find Union troops on their doorstep, decided to move their mother to safety.  Mrs. Henry was unwilling to leave, but after several shells struck the house, the terrified woman gave in.  The two sons placed the old woman on a mattress and carried her out of the house, intending to carry her to the Reverend Compton’s house, about a mile away.  The small party was soon caught in the open in the midst of a furious battle.  Terrified and hysterical, the old woman begged to be taken back to her own home.  The three Henrys returned to the house, and Mrs. Henry was returned to bed.  She was only there a short time before a shell burst in the room where she lay.  She was struck by seven shell fragments and lived for several agonizing hours, dying about nightfall.  Rosa Stokes, a young slave who had been caring for the old lady was wounded by the same shell that killed Mrs. Henry.

     At nearby Folly Castle plantation, Betty Leachman put her five small children under a large sideboard where they stayed huddled all day.  The house was struck by cannon balls several times.  Early on the morning after the battle, young Mr. Henry made his was to Folly Castle and asked Betty and her sister-in-law to return with him, to prepare Mrs. Henry’s body for burial.  They went with him, cutting across fields strewn with dead soldiers.


     The Lewis family of  Portici” found themselves at the center of the battle.  Confederate officers notified the Lewis family that a battle was imminent and that their house would be exposed to fire.  They evacuated, taking everything they could with them, but left valuable and heavy furniture behind.  The furniture was stored in a small room in an angle of the house, and the room securely nailed shut.  The only shot that struck the house during the battle struck this room and destroyed all of the furniture.  Furniture was a trifling matter however.  Fannie Lewis was in her ninth month of pregnancy and went into labor as they began to evacuate the house.  Servants found a nearby ravine and dug a small earthen hollow into the bank.  They covered this with greens.  It was here that Fannie Lewis delivered her first baby, John Beauregard Lewis.

     After the battle, Portici became a grisly field hospital.  The wounded, dead, and dying covered every floor in the house.  There were two piles of amputated legs, feet, hands and arms, all thrown together.  At a distance they looked like piles of corn.  Many of the feet still had boots on them.  Wounded men lay on tables while surgeons carved away like farmers in butchering season.  

The Hard Hand of War

     After an interlude of little over a year, the horrors of war again returned to Manassas in August, 1862 with the Second Battle of Manassas.  After the second battle, Manassas faded into obscurity.  Times were now very hard for the civilian population.  There were no real horses left, only those that were battle scarred, lame or blind.  Women were forced to run farms with the help only of old people and children.  To make matters worse, the farmers ran short of tools and implements, for it was impossible to replace the metal parts of plows, wagons, hoes and scythes.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Norton I, Emperor of the United States (1859)

Emperor Norton I

Joshua Abraham Norton (February 4, 1818 – January 8, 1880), was a San Francisco eccentric who proclaimed himself “Norton I, Emperor of the United States” in 1859.  The city embraced the eccentric, and he was treated with respect.  Merchants honored currency he issued when he made purchases.  Merchants also capitalized on his notoriety by selling souvenirs bearing his name.

Citizens of San Francisco celebrated his imperial presence, and some of his proclamations, such as his order that the United States Congress be dissolved, were popular with many.

Arizona’s Superstition Mountains are mysterious, forbidding, and dangerous.  The Superstitions are said to have claimed over five hundred lives.  What were these people looking for?  Is it possible that these mountains hide a vast treasure?  Is it possible that UFOs land here?  Is it possible that in these mountains there is a door leading to the great underground city of the Lizard Men?  Join us as we explore the history of the:  Legends of the Superstition Mountains.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

There are Monsters in Arizona’s Superstition Mountains

The Superstition Mountains

In the 1920s, two prospectors hiked into the area of Pope Springs to search for gold.  In the middle of the night, a huge beast killed and carried off their four hundred and fifty pound burro.  The prospectors described the beast as a, “large smelly, strange animal with a matted, coarse and tangled hair coat.”  The creature walked on its hind legs and stood at least eight to ten feet in height.  The prospectors claimed that the creature “smelled like feces and urine” and was agile on its hindquarters.  They testified that the creature weighed four to eight hundred pounds.

The creature described by the two prospectors closely matches descriptions of the Mogollon Monster, Arizona’s answer to Big Foot.  The Mogollon Monster is described as being over seven feet tall, with inhuman strength, and large, wild and red eyes. Its body is covered with long black or reddish brown hair, and it emits a strong odor described as that of “dead fish.”  The creature is territorial, and sometimes very violent. The creature is also said to decapitate deer and other wildlife prior to consuming them.

The earliest known documented sighting of the Mogollon Monster was reported in a 1903 edition of The Arizona Republican, in which I.W. Stevens described a creature seen near the Grand Canyon as having, “long white hair and matted beard that reached to his knees. It wore no clothing, and upon his talon-like fingers were claws at least two inches long.” Upon further inspection he noted, “a coat of gray hair nearly covered his body, with here and there a spot of dirty skin showing.” He later stated that after he discovered the creature drinking the blood of two cougars, it threatened him with a club, and “screamed the wildest, most unearthly screech”. 

An account from the mid-1940s by Don Davis says, “The creature was huge. Its eyes were deep set and hard to see, but they seemed expressionless. His face seemed pretty much devoid of hair, but there seemed to be hair along the sides of his face. His chest, shoulders, and arms were massive, especially the upper arms; easily upwards of 6 inches in diameter, perhaps much, much more. I could see he was pretty hairy, but didn't observe really how thick the body hair was. The face/head was very square; square sides and squared up chin, like a box.”

The creature was spotted a number of times between 1982 and 2004 near the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. 

The Phoenix Gazette on Monday, May 11, 1981, announced, “Explorer Plans Capture of Big Foot.” C. Thomas Biscardi was making an exploratory trip to the Superstition Mountains of Arizona to search for Big Foot.  His search turned up nothing conclusive.

In 2007, there was a Big Foot sighting in the Superstition Wilderness Area.  A large upright animal spooked a rider and pack horse near the head waters of Rough Canyon along the northern edge of White Mountain.

Another set of monsters supposedly roaming the Superstitions are the lizard men or reptilians.  Are these creatures coming from UFOs or are they homegrown?  No one can quite decide. Indian legends speak of reptilian beings inhabiting the earth when their ancestors roamed the west. There are numerous Native American petroglyphs throughout the region that depict what appear to be upright, bipedal lizards.

The earliest documented sighting occurred on October 28th, 1878.  On that date, the Louisville Courier-Journal ran a story about a scaly “Wild Man of the Woods” that had been killed and was on display for public view. The creature was described as being about six feet tall, with large eyes, and covered with scales. The strange being was viewed by hundreds of the curious. 

Gold, Murder and Monsters in the Superstition Mountains

Arizona’s Superstition Mountains are mysterious, forbidding, and dangerous.  The Superstitions are said to have claimed over five hundred lives.  What were these people looking for?  Is it possible that these mountains hide a vast treasure?  Is it possible that UFOs land here?  Is it possible that in these mountains there is a door leading to the great underground city of the Lizard Men?  Join us as we recount a fictional story of the Superstitions and then look at the real history of the legends that haunt these mountains in our new book:  Gold, Murder and Monsters in the Superstition Mountains.

Monday, March 16, 2020

I Vow to Thee

Inspirational words in the time of Coronavirus:

I vow to thee my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love.
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best.
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

And there's another country I've heard of long ago,

Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know.
We may not count her armies, we may not see her king,
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering.
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness and all her paths are peace.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Anesthesia in the American Civil War

A Civil War Operation

In 1846, Dr. William T.G. Morton, a dentist, introduced the first anesthetic ether.  Ether was first administered by rubbing it on the inside of the patient’s mouth or putting it on a cloth and having the patient breathe through it.  Morton found that ether was more effective when it was inhaled and when on to develop an inhaler.

Morton's first successful public demonstration of ether as an anesthetic was such a historic and widely publicized event that many consider him to be the "inventor and revealer" of anesthesia. However, Morton's work was preceded by that of Georgia surgeon Crawford Williamson Long, who employed ether as an anesthetic on March 30, 1842. Long demonstrated its use to physicians in Georgia, but did not publish his findings until 1849.

Between 1849 and the start of the Civil War, thirty different types of inhalers had been developed for ether and chloroform, another form of anesthesia. One of the thirty inhalers being the one Morton developed and the one he used during his 1846 demonstration. 

Anesthesia had to quickly adapt to the demands of the Civil War.  The most common battlefield operation was the amputation of arms and legs.  Amputation was a quick and reliable answer to the severe wounds created by the .58 caliber Minie ball used during the war.  This heavy bullet of soft lead caused large gaping wounds that filled with dirt and pieces of clothing.  It shattered bone.  Surgeons usually chose amputation over trying to save the limb.  Heavy doses of chloroform were administered and some seventy five percent of all soldiers survived the operation.  The poet Walt Whitman, who served as a nurse in the Union army at the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862, recounted seeing, “a heap of amputated feet, legs, arms, hands, etc, a full load for a one-horse cart.” 

Anesthesia was administered using cloth instead of inhalers because of the lack of resources and the need for speedy operations. However, fortunately for the wounded soldiers, 95% of the time anesthesia was used in Civil War surgeries although in small quantities, just enough to get the job done. It was quite rare when anesthesia was not used. Morton himself became a military anesthesiologist at the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862, attending many patients and sharing his knowledge with other surgeons.   A Civil War surgeon remembered many years later, “How much have the horrors of the battlefield and the hospital been diminished by the use of ether and chloroform!”

A quick look at women doctors and medicine in the Civil War for the general reader. Technologically, the American Civil War was the first “modern” war, but medically it still had its roots in the Middle Ages. In both the North and the South, thousands of women served as nurses to help wounded and suffering soldiers and civilians. A few women served as doctors, a remarkable feat in an era when sex discrimination prevented women from pursuing medical education, and those few who did were often obstructed by their male colleagues at every turn.

In 1860, disgruntled secessionists in the deep North rebel against the central government and plunge America into Civil War. Will the Kingdom survive? The land will run red with blood before peace comes again.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

George Armstrong Custer as a Sioux Chief

Tableaux vivants were popular forms of entertainment on the American frontier.  In a tableau, participants make still images with their bodies to represent a scene. Because there is no movement, or speaking, a tableau is easier to produce than a play, yet can easily lead into extended drama activities with one tableau succeeding another to tell a story.  Tableaux continue today in the form of “living statues”, where street performers often appear in costume as historical characters.

In the summer of 1875, George Armstrong Custer appeared in a series of tableaux with Miss Agnes Bates of Monroe Michigan depicting a Sioux Chief and his bride.  Miss Bates was a guest of Mrs. Elizabeth Custer at Fort Abraham Lincoln, North Dakota in 1874-1875.

In 1873, the 7th Cavalry had moved into the fort to ensure the expansion of the Northern Pacific Railway.  The first post commander of the expanded fort was Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer, who held the position until his death in 1876.

Since his death along the bluffs overlooking the Little Bighorn River, in Montana, on June 25, 1876, over five hundred books have been written about the life and career of George Armstrong Custer. Views of Custer have changed over succeeding generations. Custer has been portrayed as a callous egotist, a bungling egomaniac, a genocidal war criminal, and the puppet of faceless forces. For almost one hundred and fifty years, Custer has been a Rorschach test of American social and personal values. Whatever else George Armstrong Custer may or may not have been, even in the twenty-first century, he remains the great lightning rod of American history. This book presents portraits of Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn as they have appeared in print over successive decades and in the process demonstrates the evolution of American values and priorities.